The days are warm and sunny, and there remains a subtle joyousness in the days post Eid ul Adha. Tehran seems to carry on, despite the huge price hikes caused by the new raft of sanctions. Like so many capital cities it works on autopilot. For Tehran though, it has been 30 year plus of sanctions and external pressure trying to crush a resilience that remains nuanced, even when the circumstances aren’t, and which defies all easy attempts at categorisation.
The world sees what it likes and so hundreds of thousands – maybe a million? – in 2009 protesting the result of Presidential elections that were eventually deemed to be free and fair – are viewed worldwide and the deaths of 17 protestors rightly condemned. But rallies in their millions in support of the elections, or in support of Palestine, or in defence of the Holy Prophet peace be upon him (without any of the riotous violence seen elsewhere), these are ignored or passed off as government orchestrated. It is a bizarre claim, when the main street critique of government is the failure to orchestrate or manage the economy, development in the regions or manage the constant external pressures on it.
We spend an evening with friends in Karaj, about an hour (or three depending on the holiday traffic) north of Tehran. It is around 8pm and we hear from the street the sweet sounds of a street performer singing the praises of the Holy Prophet and the Love of Allah swt, and playing an accordion. We stand for a while listening on the balcony as night deepens.
Later, our host tells us of Ban Ki Moon’s visit to Tehran in August during the Non-Aligned Movement summit. The United Nations Secretary General had spoken about the further participation of women in society and education, despite acknowledging that some 60% of university students in Iran were women, as well as passing remarks about the state of the economy bereft of any context. At a university meeting, our friend raised his concerns with Ban Ki Moon. Why so much focus on women at university when most students at university were women? Why is it that the issue of sanctions was not raised by him? Why is it that UN allows such sanctions against countries to pass without condemnation or is indeed complicit with them? It is the poor who will suffer, not the middle and upper classes. This is not a punishment or deterrent for the government to stop its pursuit of nuclear energy, just collective punishment for the nation.
Mr. Moon could not make much of an answer. He would talk with a few people when he returned to the UN he said and moved on to the next question.
* At the time of uploading, President Obama is now in his second term. His first day in office was busy ordering new drone strikes in Pakistan, his second on implementing another set of sanctions against Iran.